Like a Bird: The Art of the American Slave Song written by Cynthia Grady, concept and art by Michele Wood

Published by Millbrook Press

Summary:  Coretta Scott King Award winner Michele Wood has created beautiful paintings inspired by thirteen African American slave songs, such as “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Go Down, Moses”.  There is a one-page introduction that begins with the question, “What does a bird have to do with American slave songs?”  Each two page spread includes the song with music, a painting, and a paragraph or two of text giving some background about the song.  The bird motif in the title and introduction is carried out through the book, with a white dove appearing in every painting.  The last several pages include lyrics to all the songs, a glossary, bibliography, and a list of books and websites for additional reading.  40 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  This unique book would make an excellent addition to music and art libraries.  The beautiful paintings express both pain and hope, and contain interesting and symbolic details.  The words and music make the songs accessible to all readers.

Cons:  Listening to way too many “Wee Sing” cassettes in my children’s early years caused those versions to spring into my mind as soon as I saw many of these song titles.

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